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Former Marlins owner to reimburse government over stadium development

Former Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has agreed a final lawsuit settlement to reimburse local government $5.5m (£3.9m/€4.5m) for the cost of developing the Major League Baseball (MLB) club’s home, Marlins Park.

The settlement appears to end a legal dispute that dates back to February 2018. A financing agreement struck for the development of Marlins Park was then at the centre of a lawsuit launched by Miami-Dade County against Loria and the new ownership group of the franchise.

The lawsuit related to 2017’s $1.2bn takeover of the Marlins by a group led by billionaire businessman Bruce Sherman and New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter. Miami-Dade County’s lawsuit claimed that the takeover hadn’t resulted in the activation of a 2009 agreement which called for the county and the City of Miami to receive a share of profits from any sale of the team.

This deal was connected to the level of public investment that went into the development of Marlins Park, which opened in 2012. However, the Marlins maintained the dispute had “absolutely nothing to do” with the current ownership group, adding that it expected the previous ownership and the county to resolve the matter.

The Associated Press news agency yesterday (Thursday) reported that Miami-Dade County commission has approved the final settlement after Loria agreed to a last-minute increase in the amount. An initial $4.2m figure was reached last month.

Loria acquired the Marlins for $158.5m in 2002, with the local government in 2009 agreeing to help develop Marlins Park on the basis that Loria would share 5% of the net profits if he later sold the team.

Marlins Park cost $634m to develop, with public money covering three quarters of the outlay. Under the final terms of the settlement, the county will receive $4.8m and the City of Miami, $700,000.

Earlier this week, the Marlins detailed plans to open Marlins Park at around 25% capacity when the 2021 season gets underway in April. Marlins Park has a capacity of 37,000, meaning that around 9,300 fans would be able to attend the team’s opening day game against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 1.

Image: Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi